Marking a wartime tragedy

The memorial stone after the ceremony

By Andrew Lamberton

(who also took the photographs at the ceremony - and supplied the rest)

IT IS only following the dogged persistence of a local man that a memorial has been unveiled outside Alvaston Hall, Nantwich, to mark the occasion when six men were killed while trying to defuse a German bomb in August 1940.

   Apparently, a German bomber on his way back from a raid on Liverpool decided to jettison his bombs over Nantwich. One bomb fell in a field at Mile House Farm, Worleston; another at Windy Arbour; a third at Brook Farm, Alvaston; a fourth behind 8 Birchin Lane; and a fifth behind Dairy House Farm, Colley’s Lane, Willaston.

   As some of these bombs had failed to detonate, members of the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Squad were called in to defuse them. Using only the simplest of tools such as a screwdriver, pliers and a stethoscope, they were able to successfully defuse the the bombs at Willaston and Birchin Lane.

   After successfully defusing the two bombs, the party moved on to Brook Farm, Alvaston, to defuse the third unexploded device. It was while they attempted to defuse this bomb, on Saturday, August 17, 1940, that it exploded prematurely and killed four members of the squad outright and seriously wounded two others. These two later succumbed in hospital to their injuries.

   The six were: Sapper Albert Fearon, Sgt Edward Greengrass, Sapper Michael Lambert, Sapper George Lucas, Sapper John Perrins and Sapper Harold Thompson. It is understood that none of the men were local, although two of them may have come from Winsford.

   The deaths were hushed up at the time in case it affected morale.

        

FAST forward some 72 years and the local Royal Engineers' Crewe Branch decided that it was time to mark the occasion with a permanent memorial. After they approached Cheshire East Council, things gathered pace and with help from local businesses - Oxley’s Funeral Directors and Monumental Masons, Nantwich (who donated, manufactured and installed the plaque); Ringway Jacobs and Willis Brothers, of Sandbach (who transported and installed the memorial stone); Stancliffe Stone (who donated the stone) and TG Builders' Merchants (who donated building materials) - a memorial stone was installed.

   Alvaston Hall provided the location for the memorial as it was the nearest  suitable site to the field where the explosion occurred.

    On Sunday, October 7, 2012, an unveiling and dedication ceremony of the memorial took place  at Alvaston Hall in front of military personnel, friends and families. One of those present was the nephew of one of the six men killed.

   The Mayor of Cheshire East, Councillor George M. Walton, welcomed those present and later unveiled the memorial stone.

    Next came two short addresses, one from Councillor Michael Jones, Leader of Cheshire East Council and the second from Mr Des Curtis, Chairman of the Royal Engineers Association, Crewe Branch.

    The memorial stone was dedicated by the Mayor’s Chaplain, the Rev Canon Michael Walters,in a short service. Wreaths were laid by several organisations and concluding comments were given by Councillor Dorothy Flude, Deputy Mayor of Cheshire East.

    The Last Post and Reveille were sounded by a bugler from the Co-operative Band. 

    The Manager of Alvaston Hall Hotel, Mr Terry Sterling, invited all those present to enjoy a tea at the hotel.

    The names of the six men who died are recorded on the memorial stone which can be viewed at any time at the entrance to Alvaston Hall.   

 

 

 

 

The nine sappers with the defused bomb at the rear of Dairy House Farm, Willaston.

 

 

 

A glazier works on the shattered windows of the farmhouse after the blast.

This picture, and the one below, were taken by Mr Grange of Brook Farrn 

 

 

 

 

The bomb crater at Brook Farm

Military personnel and guests assembling at the war memorial before the unveiling

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